Diamond Sports Group, the owner of the tv network that airs Brewers games, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So far, fans have still been able to watch games on the Bally Sports Wisconsin channel as the bankruptcy case works its way through the courts, but future viewing options are uncertain.
Like all good Milwaukee sports fans, the Hanson & Payne team is keeping a close eye on this case. We are even hopeful that the end result of the bankruptcy will be better baseball viewing options.
Bankruptcy Was Not a Surprise
The Bally Sports bankruptcy has been a possibility since 2019, which is when the Sinclair Broadcast Group bought several regional sports channels previously owned by 21st Century Fox. Fox was forced by regulators to sell the channels in order to get its merger with Disney approved, and with the broadcast rights came the responsibility to pay teams for their content.
According to TMJ4, Diamond Sports listed assets and liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion each in its Chapter 11 petition. The Brewers’ contract with Bally is worth nearly $34 million per year over four years.
Better Baseball Viewing Options May be on the Horizon
The future of the Bally Sports channels are unclear at this time. Diamond Sports is looking for a buyer, but the broadcast rights may end up back in the hands of Major League Baseball. MLB has gone so far to say that it will broadcast games if Bally Sports suddenly stops doing so.
“Having streamed live games on MLB.TV for more than 20 years and produced live games for MLB Network since 2009, we have the experience and capabilities to deliver games to fans uninterrupted. In addition, we have hired additional seasoned local media professionals to bolster our capabilities in anticipation of this development. Over the long term, we will reimagine our distribution model to address the changing media climate and ultimately reach an even larger number of fans.”
There is a lot of speculation about what MLB meant by the last line in the quote above. It could be referring to the fact that a lot of fans are cutting their cable cords and streaming most of the content they consume. Or it could be alluding to the fact that the current streaming platform MLB.tv is hampered by blackout restrictions that prevent fans from watching in-market games.
From our point of view, any move by MLB to make watching the Brew Crew easier for Wisconsin residents would be a positive development.
Not the First Time Milwaukee Baseball has been Impacted by Bankruptcy
Whatever happens in the Diamond Sports bankruptcy, it will not be the first time Milwaukee baseball fans have been impacted by a bankruptcy filing. Bankruptcy played a major role in helping Milwaukee secure its Major League team.
When the Braves left Milwaukee after the 1965 season, baseball lovers were devastated. The state even filed a criminal complaint against the MLB to try and keep the team here. The case went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, but the Braves still went to Atlanta.
Then, in 1967, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that it was adding four expansion teams. Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego, and Seattle were all given leave to start teams, but Milwaukee was snubbed (perhaps as a punishment for being litigious!). Lucky for us, the Seattle Pilots had a horrible first year. So many things went wrong the team became the first and only professional sports team to ever declare bankruptcy.
The Pilots moved to Milwaukee and changed their name to the Brewers for the 1970 season. Although Seattle fans were upset (the state of Washington filed its own lawsuit against the MLB), they were soon mollified by the creation of the Mariners.
Both teams have had great success despite their market size thanks to the strong support of their fan base. A fan base that may soon have another bankruptcy case to thank for the ability to more easily watch games.
A Full-Service Milwaukee Area Bankruptcy Firm
It is impossible to predict what chain of events will be triggered by a bankruptcy, but often something good comes right along with what is at first considered something bad. The Hanson & Payne team is eager to see what good comes from the Diamond Sports bankruptcy.
We are also ready to assist other Milwaukee area businesses dealing with the fallout from bankruptcy filings. We are a full-service bankruptcy firm that helps debtors and creditors navigate the bankruptcy process and chart a path forward. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.